AAFAF - Autoridad de Asesoría Financiera y Agencia Fiscal de Puerto Rico

University Students Gain Insight, Knowledge With AAFAF Summer Internship

14 students participating in a variety of fiscal and recovery projects


For the second year in a row, the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority of Puerto Rico (AAFAF by its Spanish acronym), is holding its José M. Berrocal summer internship program, where college students can learn about the island’s economic recovery and fiscal affairs, and actively participate in projects to foster economic development.


AAFAF Executive Director Omar J. Marrero explained to THE WEEKLY JOURNAL that the purpose of this two-month internship is to educate the leaders of tomorrow and provide them with the tools and resources to comprehend Puerto Rico’s complex financial scenario, as well as provide a hands-on approach where they can show off their skills to be incorporated in the agency’s projects.


Last year, the program was held in a hybrid format but this year the interns will be working in the entity’s building. Fourteen students from local and U.S. universities were selected from a variety of academic disciplines, such as finance, accounting, economics, pre-law, human resources, communications and more.


One student is Jorge García, a 21-year-old San Juan native from Villanova University in Pennsylvania. García is doing a double major in finance and business analytics, “which is basically the study of large pieces of data that are analyzed and solutions are sought to increase efficiency,” he stated.


Having studied in high school from 2015 to 2018, García was just a teenager when Puerto Rico underwent historic challenges – the public debt was declared unpayable, the federal government passed the Promesa law and established the Financial Oversight and Management Board, and two back-to-back hurricanes devastated the island, prompting an ongoing recovery process that has led to billions of federal allocations.


“When I saw the call for internship of this program (in LinkedIn), I understood that this was an excellent way for me to have a much more enriching knowledge of the subject and contribute a little of my knowledge that I have obtained in Villanova to help and provide recommendations, and that’s how I got interested in the program,” he asserted, adding that he intends to return to Puerto Rico after completing his studies. “Apart from all the knowledge that we are going to obtain here, I believe that the second most important thing for me is the opportunity to meet all the members that are part of AAFAF and the… team. This is an amazing tool for a young man like me… to expose himself to these professionals of this level and for them to see the potential that one has to grow professionally.”


Meanwhile, Alexa Potter is a 21-year-old Washington, D.C. native studying pre-law with a focus on social justice at Occidental College, in Los Angeles. Her father is a bankruptcy lawyer for Puerto Rico and she is familiarized with both the island and its economic environment. She explained that the combination of theoretical and practical knowledge drew her to this opportunity.


“I hope to gain both theoretical and practical insight into the operations of AAFAF, as well as a deeper understanding of the historical and future challenges that Puerto Rico faces. With eight weeks of intensive learning and hands-on involvement, I also hope to acquire the skills necessary to navigate those challenges and I envision myself, hopefully, returning to Puerto Rico in the near future to pursue the efforts of AAFAF in collaboration with other governmental entities,” she affirmed.


Potter has experience working in several law firms, specifically targeted toward COVID-19 recovery and employment efforts, “so I believe that those skills, particularly at this moment, are necessary for Puerto Rico,” she said. “As we know, Puerto Rico is in a very unique situation and also at a very pivotal moment in that unique situation. I believe that at such a critical time right now, my skillset aligns with the current mission of Puerto Rico and its movement towards reconstruction and economic empowerment.”


Hands-On Approach


Marrero clarified that the students participating in this internship will not be performing “clerical” duties. Instead, they were each assigned a particular area or project within the agency that aligns with their educational background and skills.


Furthermore, they will be actively involved in current initiatives and programs, such as disbursements under the American Rescue Plan, natural disaster recovery projects, and more. “Each of them will have a project and it will be a one-off project to develop an initiative that can then be implemented [in the agency],” the executive director said.


THE WEEKLY JOURNAL asked Marrero to elaborate on the internship’s relevance amid the ongoing recuperation process from hurricanes and earthquakes, as well as COVID-19. He observed that, in addition to the local government’s $10 billion budget and $8 billion yearly federal allocations, the federal funding related to these challenges drives the Gross Domestic Product past $100 billion.


Understanding and disbursing those funds, he said, require a level of expertise but Puerto Ricans “do not enter that world and depend in many cases on knowledge from other jurisdictions. What we want is precisely to institutionalize that knowledge so that, not only can we take advantage of it now and in the future in Puerto Rico, but if there is a need in another jurisdiction of the United States that is Spanish-speaking, then Puerto Ricans can participate and assist them in recovering from disasters.”


Fuente: The Weekly Journal

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